By Jenni . April 26, 2009 . 3:39pm
Idea Factory has a way of creating otome visual novels to appeal to every woman. There are fantasy novels, ones based on popular anime or manga and so on. Will O’ Wisp Portable is a 19th century visual novel designed to appeal to gothic and steampunk fans looking for a gorgeous, haunting, fairy tale style drama. As a means of appealing to a wider audience, the PS2 game and it’s fandisk/sequel Easter no Kiseki have been ported to the DS and PSP as Will O’ Wisp DS and Will O’ Wisp Portable.
Hanna is a young woman living alone in a London home with her living doll maid Emily. Her grandfather was a very well known maker of these dolls, and dolls of all sorts, and she is also a novice doll maker. She discovers two old keys among his belongings. One opens the door to a basement workshop area, where she finds a large black coffin. Inside, she discovers the living-doll Will. The other key is his, and she then winds him up.
The story then follows Hanna as she encounters other living dolls like Will, Hobblrdy, Gyl, Ignis and Jack. She learns about their past and current lives, and about a mysterious way in which these dolls can become human.
The dolls themselves are incredibly interesting devices, with unusual back stories. They’re really the main focus of this game. Appearance-wise, they seem to resemble life size ball-jointed dolls (like the Volks Super Dollfie dolls). They always tend to serve masters, and many of their stories are quite tragic.
The art in Will O’ Wisp Portable is absolutely gorgeous. The character designs and CGs are among the most beautiful I have ever seen in a visual novel. The attention to detail in the outfits, characters and surroundings is amazing. The widescreen display of the PSP really does the images justice.
The voice acting is a bit unexpected, but quite good as well. I’ll admit, I was taken back a bit when I first heard Will’s voice (I didn’t expect it to be so deep), but it does suit the character once you get to know him. It’s fully voiced, as are most of Idea Factory’s PSP visual novels, but like Hiiro no Kakera has some complex kanji and isn’t a suitable first visual novel for intermediate Japanese speakers. There is on-screen indication when you make a choice that makes one of the characters like you more, which is a huge help for players who aren’t totally fluent. You’ll always know when you’re on the right track.
I enjoyed the relaxed pace of Will O’ Wisp Portable. It’s more of a day-by-day sort of visual novel, where the focus isn’t on some epic event or quest like in Hiiro no Kakera, but more on isolated incidents and periods of time like in Ouran Koukou Host-Bu DS. At the same time, it has a nice element of fantasy, what with the constant appearance of ghostly light and nature of the dolls themselves.
It’s also one of the shorter visual novels, which means it is easier to digest in bite-sized chunks. You can finish a playthrough in three or four days. That way, you don’t have to worry about forgetting important storyline details or facts, and it makes replays seem less daunting an experience. It’s also very dramatic, great for when you want a somewhat deep game. Some characters do have occasional funny moments, but for the most part Will O’ Wisp Portable is pure drama.
Will O’ Wisp Portable is definitely one of the prettiest visual novels available today, and worth a few playthroughs. The characters are all interesting and the way the game is set up, you want to learn more about them and Hanna’s world.